Wednesday, March 1, 2006; 3:00 PM
David Lat and Alex Pareene were online Wednesday, March 1, at 3 p.m. ET to talk about their new roles as the editors of political blog Wonkette since founding editor Ana Marie Cox left earlier this year.
The transcript follows.
David Lat is a former Newark, N.J.-based federal prosecutor. In a November 2005 interview with the New Yorker, Lat revealed that he is also Article III Groupie, the supposedly female author of judicial blog Underneath Their Robes.
Alex Pareene is, as many articles and Pareene have said, a "20-year-old NYU dropout." He's also the author of the blog Buck Hill.
Souf Eazt Dee Cee: As crushed out as I was on Ana, I must say I really like what you guys have been doing. It seems like the site is becoming more "gawkery." Is this a natural phenomenon or is Money Bags Denton pushing you in that direction?
Alex Pareene: I'm answering this one first because it's the only one so far smart enough to start with an obsequious compliment.
First: Thank you!
Second: Nick "Money Backs" Denton doesn't actually remember that he gave us this gig. He doesn't really notice what we do, as he's generally busy swimming in a pool full of gold coins a la Scrooge McDuck. Seriously: we receive no Orders from On High as to what we cover or how we cover it. Nick sends us a link every now and then, to the tips email, just like regular folks. Except, you know, we actually *post* his links.
Burlington, Vt.: Three words: Mo' Butterstick now.
David Lat: While we adore Butterstick -- who doesn't? -- we feel that this particular meme is uniquely Ana Marie Cox's. So our failure to talk more about "the Stick" reflects a conscious editorial decision on our part to chart our own path here at Wonkette. Our standard for Butterstick items is that we'll talk about that diminutive panda if there's a news hook. For example, we recently did an item about pandas eating up zoo budgets, based on a New York Times piece. If Butterstick goes into Iraq and unearths WMDs, OF COURSE we'll write about him. But we generally don't do "Stick for the sake of Stick" coverage, wisely leaving the Stick shtick to others (e.g., http:/
Alex Pareene: We cut back our coverage after vigorous discussion on our internal omblog following Butterstick's appearance on Olbermann's show wearing a hunting vest. Are you a serious representative of an endangered species or a comedian, Mr. Stick?
We woulda taken Butterstick out to the woodshed, but the little rascal's so darn cute!
Minneapolis, Minn.: You both moved from New York to D.C. Does D.C. feel provincial, like it seems to those of us outside the beltway? How are you going to avoid trading access for your integrity, will it be a struggle?
David Lat: In response to your first question, D.C. definitely doesn't feel provincial, at least not to me. Although I miss some aspects of New York, and the relative quietness of street life here is still strange to me, Washington is a major city with lots to offer. Also, as a former lawyer, I have tons of friends here, which has eased my transition.
As for your second question: I've already started trading my integrity for access! Isn't that the name of the game here in D.C.? When in Rome...
Alex Pareene: As a Minneapolitan myself, I'd just like to say: Hi, mom.
I do miss ordering Chinese at 3 a.m., not to mention, you know, taking the subway places at 3 a.m., but I do really like it here. 'Cause my apartment's huge and comparatively cheap.
No one has really offered to trade me anything for my integrity yet. But I'm open to suggestions. Do you have something good? We'll talk. Lunch at the Caucus Room Friday?
Arlandria, Va.: Alex, how did you advertise your previous blog? And is that how you came to have the Wonkette gig? Was there an application process?
Alex Pareene: I didn't advertise it. Really at all. It's really not that good.
I got the gig because I e-mailed Gawker a long time ago. And they thought my email was funny. That's sort of how it works, I guess. A good way to catch Denton's attention is to be an attractive young man who lives in New York.
A strong sarcasm reflex....: and a nose for news. So how do I get a gig writing snarky things all day long? Where can I sign up?
David Lat: My advice: start your own blog, if you don't have one already, and do the very best job that you can with it. There aren't many opportunities out there to blog for a living, but the way to get such a gig is to show you can do it, and do it well. I came to the attention of Gawker Media through my judicial gossip blog, "Underneath Their Robes." They liked what I was doing with UTR, and it's a blog with a Wonkette-like sensibility: similar to Wonkette, but for the federal judiciary. So that's how I ended up here at Wonkette.
Alex Pareene: My kinda serious answer: There are like three bloggers getting rich, and like a couple dozen making a living off of it. Out of a billion. The rest do it for fun, or, if they advertise and get decent traffic, just a little bit of extra cash.
The "blogsphere" is NOT egalitarian, democratic, or any of that stuff. If you didn't get in on the ground floor, you're kinda screwed unless you have celebrity friends or a really, really great gimmick (Hi, David!)
If you're a great writer, it's a decent way to hone your craft, but you have to be an even better self-promoter to get anywhere.
Washington, D.C.: David, still practicing law?
David Lat: No, not currently, but I pay my bar dues and keep up with my CLE requirement. A law license is like an umbrella -- you never know when you're going to need it!
Nonprofit, D.C.: How can a bottom-rung program assistant tied to her computer all day get a commenting invite? Unfortunately, I can't hang out outside to look for tips lol
David Lat: I'm pretty easy when it comes to giving out comment invites. If you email us and offer us some funny observation that we can use, a stupid CNN.com headline, etc., and ask for a comment invite, we're happy to give you one. It's not intended to be some sort of velvet rope/exclusive club thing; the primary reason for having it is to avoid a total meltdown and anarchy (cough cough, will not say anything about The Washington Post blog here).
Alex Pareene: I only give them out to cute girls.
Washington, D.C.: Do either of have a day job besides maintaining the blog?
David Lat: I don't -- although once I'm more settled in at Wonkette, I may try to do some freelance writing on the side. Reading the news and mongering the rumors keeps me pretty busy during throughout the day, at least right now. I can't imagine trying to balance maintaining the blog with a full-time day job.
Alex Pareene: I have a side gig impersonating David Broder at children's parties.
Alexandria, Va.: Great site, guys! But seriously, what's happening with the new comments section? Is it catching on?
David Lat: I think the comments section is gaining momentum, and the number of comments per posts has been fine, especially considering that it's so new. Of course, we are continuing to build it out -- and to give out more invites. So send us your tips, and we'll send you some invites!
Atlanta, Ga.: Who is your favorite Bush admin. official, senator, and congressman/woman? Love the blog, dahlings...
David Lat: My choices are going to seem cliched, but I have a weakness for dramatic, intriguing figures, and strong, powerful, brilliant women. So my favorite Bush administration official is Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and my favorite senator is Hillary Rodham Clinton. If Hillary and Condi ever face each other in some race -- for example, a presidential race, as Dick Morris has fantasized about -- I will pretty much drop dead from sheer excitement.
As for congressmen, allow me to quote the Original Wonkette, Ana Marie Cox: "Oh, please, congressmen? They're like interns. Why bother learning their names?"
Alex Pareene: Chertoff and Michael Brown should have a sitcom. I love them. I want them to share an apartment. Every week, Chertoff goes to work, and the apartment catches on fire, but Brown refuses to call him and tell him.
Bethesda, Md.: Does it bother you that you're two men writing a blog that has such a feminine name? It made sense under Ana, but was there discussion about whether "Wonkette" would stick? Personally I think the "Wonkette Dudes" would be more appropriate.
David Lat: Not really; I think we're both comfortable enough with our masculinity to be fine with it. Wonkette has such a high profile, and Ana et al. did such a nice job of building it up, so I don't think there was ever any serious discussion about changing the blog's name -- and forfeiting the goodwill. As for what to call ourselves, I suppose we could be called "Wonketteers," if "Wonkettes" might be viewed as too feminine.
But, speaking for myself, I'm okay with being a Wonkette (or one-half of Wonkette). In my original blog, "Underneath Their Robes," I blogged as a woman -- so I have no problem with assuming a female identity in the blogosphere. At this point, though, Wonkette may have transcended a female identity; we haven't done much in the way of gender-specific blogging.
Alex Pareene: One thing I've found is that middle-aged men are much more likely to buy me drinks now.
Silver Spring, Md.: Blogs have traditionally been identified with an individual: AndrewSullivan.com, Kausfiles, etc. But now, although Ms. Cox is gone, her blog-name survives. Could you comment on the notion of a blog as a brand, rather than as a blogger? Is it fair for your blog - which I still enjoy - to bear the Wonkette name or logo, that cute cartoon of the imaginary Wonkette with knee socks, pleated skirt, and purring cat?
P.S. - In what city or cities do you work/live?
Alex Pareene: I think lots of blogs are just as much about the "brands" as individuals... blah blah blah
I really don't have anything serious to say about blogs and branding and the corporatization of new media, actually. Just wanted to point out that the cat was edited out of the logo. 'Cause, you know, we're not *that* girly. Jeez.
I petitioned our boss to add a cartoon of two unshaven skinny guys with bags under their eyes hunched over laptops, but apparently THE MAN didn't like that idea.
Alex Pareene: Oh, and I live/work in D.C.
David Lat: I pretty much agree with Alex's views. I also live and work in Washington. Glad to hear that you continue to enjoy Wonkette!
Washington, D.C.: What's it like blogging as a pair? How are you guys splitting it up?
David Lat: I've really enjoyed blogging with Alex so far, and I think it's great fun to blog with someone else. It's nice to know that on days when you're not feeling especially prolific and/or funny, there's someone else there to keep things going and to pick up the slack. We also ask each other for editorial input and run jokes and ideas by each other, which is helpful. Blogging can be a somewhat solitary activity, so it's nice to have a partner in crime.
As for how we split things up, we've generally eschewed a "zone defense" approach in favor of a "man-to-man" -- or "man-to-story," or "man-to-tip" -- defense. We stay in constant contact throughout the day over instant messenger (IM), and we IM each other to figure out who will be blogging about what. While there may be some subjects that one of us tends to blog about more than the other -- for example, I tend to do more law-related blogging, given my legal background -- nothing is set in stone.
Alex Pareene: It's really, really great blogging with someone else. If you get complaints about something you've written, you have someone to blame right there. If there were bylines, my friends would never speak to me again.
Don't listen to David, I secretly write all the Supreme Court stuff. Guy doesn't know a thing about law, he fakes it. He once told me his favorite Justice was Judge Dredd.
Philadelphia, Pa.: David, back when you were working as an assistant U.S. Attorney in Newark, N.J., what reaction did your superiors in the U.S. Department of Justice have to your unmasking in The New Yorker as the formerly pseudonymous author of a popular federal judicial gossip blog? And what reaction did you expect they would have?
David Lat: Long story! For now, I don't think I have much to add beyond what appears in this New York Times article, by Jonathan Miller, published on Jan. 22, 2006: He Fought the Law. They Both Won.
San Francisco, Calif.: Ana's big assets (no, not THOSE) were all the personal contacts who totally stealthed her juicy backbites of information. Are her contacts embracing you (no, I mean in the journalistic sense) just as closely? Or are you having to start over?
David Lat: Ana has been kind enough to introduce us to a number of her fantastic sources and contacts here in Washington. In addition, we've also been doing some cultivating of sources on our own. For example, given my legal background, I know a lot of sources within the legal profession: government lawyers, law clerks, law professors, etc. Developing a network of contacts and sources is one of the most important, challenging, and enjoyable parts of this job.
Arlington, Va.: I have also been pleasantly surprised by you two. You had big shoes to fill and you have succeeded. Have you found any favorite haunts since you moved to D.C.?
Alex Pareene: While getting repeatedly screwed over by Verizon, I've been spending most of my work days at Tryst on 18th Street. It's very quickly sapping me of my will to live.
I don't go out a whole lot, but you might find me at Chief Ikes on the occasional weekday night, or seeing some over-hyped indie band at one of those U Street. bars on weekends.
I tend to avoid the hill/democrat/republican bar scene (seriously, you want to talk about this stuff *after* work?), though I have stayed at Stetsons until they kicked us out, so you never know.
David Lat: Like Alex, I don't go out terribly much either -- during the week, I tend to be pretty exhausted by the end of the day. Blogging is hard work!
I live between Dupont and Logan circles, and so two of my favorite local places are Logan Tavern and Merkado. Oh, and the Whole Foods on that same street, although I guess that's not really a neighborhood haunt. As for cafes -- we pointy-headed blogger/writer types are supposed to go to them, dontcha know -- I like Kramerbooks/Afterwords.
College Park, Md.: Sooo...what are my chances of getting the Wonkette internship if I applied for it?
Alex Pareene: I found my intern -- there were so many applications, we couldn't get back to everyone to applied. Sorry! Nothing personal. Probably. I think David still has to pick one, so butter him up.
David Lat: Heheh, yes, I haven't moved as fast as Alex -- so yes, butter me up...
Boston, Mass.: First, I really enjoy the blog! What opinions do y'all have on bringing back a fresh air into politics? And why do you think that so many states are revisiting abortion issues right now, ex. South Dakota and Mississippi? Thanks!
Alex Pareene: Bringing *back* fresh air? I was pretty convinced we were degrading the discourse.
Anyway, to answer the second question: Midterm elections + new SCOTUS justices = hell, why not try that flag-burning thing again too while we're at it, see what sticks.
Silver Spring, Md: With Wonkette blocked (somewhat) in Iraq, are you now going to focus more on the up and coming Afghanistan market?
Alex Pareene: We're gonna break into the Iran market now, before everyone else hits it up. We want Wonkette to be an established brand there by the time the tanks roll in.
Alexandria, Va.: Are there any members of Congress known to read and love, or hate, Wonkette?
Alex Pareene: The vast majority of our Wonk'd sightings are sent in by Representative Martin Sabo (D-Minn.).
Joe Biden does the funny CNN headlines. He loves that stuff.
This is my last question, so thanks for reading, and I'd like to let The Post staff know that I'm totally willing to drop this whole blogging thing if you guys have an editorship open. I'm really really good at promoting white people.
washingtonpost.com: Thank you all for participating today. Join us next Wednesday when blogger Frank Warren will be on to discuss his Web site, PostSecret, and his new book, PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives.
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